Jahan Pahlevan Gholam Reza Takhti was born in 1930 and while not the most decorated wrestler in Iranian history he is the most popular. He was not only well known for his exploits in the ring, but out of it as well and was also known for his sportsmanship. He was a freestyle wrestling competitor for 16 years and is one of one of only two athletes from Iran that took part in four Olympic games.
Takhti only had nine years of schooling since his family was very poor and after leaving Tehran for a job as an oil worker he was drafted into the Iranian army. It was at this time when he began to freestyle wrestle. His athletic skills were noticed and he began to train at the Poolad Gymnasium. He began his illustrious career as a middleweight wrestler and in 1950 he became the first wrestler from Iran to win an international medal. When Takhti was 22 years old he won the silver medal in the Olympics in Helsinki in 1952 in the 79kg weight category. In the 1956 Olympics held in Melbourne he won the gold medal in the 87kg weight category.
Takhti won two gold medals in the 1959 World Championships in Tehran, in his home country, and again took the gold in the 1961 World Championships in Yokohama Japan. His last medal in the World Championships came in 1962 where he won the silver in Toledo, Ohio.
As stated before, Takhti was well known for his sportsmanship and for what he did for Iran. In 1961 a major earthquake hit Iran where 45,000 people were killed. He was a big star in the country, and he got in the trenches after the devastation taking to the streets of Tehran trying to get help for the victims. He not only collected money, but he also helped bring things such as food and blankets loading trucks and taking them to the affected area.
In a match with Russia’s Alexander Medved, Takhti noticed that his opponent had an injured leg. He never went after the leg after that and while he could have done so easily winning he did not and eventually lost. Even after beating Anatoli Albul, who was the world champion at the time, Takhti comforted a the visibly upset mother of Albul, and he said, “I’m sorry about the result, but your son is a great wrestler.”
Death of a Legend
In early 1968 Takhti was found dead in his hotel room at the age of 38. The death was officially ruled a suicide, but many claim foul play because of his negative political views about the Pahlavi regime. Iran went into mourning for their beloved athlete and hundreds of thousands of people took the streets to grieve. Takhti is buried in the southern part of Tehran at the Babooyeh cemetery. Even to this day, he is the most popular sports figure in Iran with his long list of athletic accomplishments as well as his humanity and sportsmanship.